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Critics, supporters debate Latimer ‘mercy killing’ ruling

February 29th, 2008

Disability advocates fear appearance of leniency puts vulnerable at risk; Latimer’s supporters call for legal reforms

From the [Toronto] Star:

People with disabilities are expressing fear and disbelief over public reaction to the day parole of Robert Latimer. The Saskatchewan farmer had served seven years of a life sentence on a second-degree murder conviction after asphyxiating his daughter in the cab of his truck. Twelve-year-old Tracy had cerebral palsy.

… Advocates for people with disabilities are concerned any appearance of leniency may put other vulnerable people at risk.

… The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a Winnipeg-based legal advocacy group, believes “Tracy and her right to life have been forgotten” in the public reaction to the case.

… “This isn’t about one man,” says Anna MacQuarrie, policy analyst at the Canadian Association for Community Living. “Tracy had a serious disability, not a terminal illness. Robert Latimer did have alternatives. It’s time to focus on the bigger issue and that is attitudes to disabilities.”

From the London [Ontario] News Free-Press:

Member of Parliament Joe Comartin said the development is bound to ignite parliamentary debate, but called it a “cop-out” to look at legalizing assisted suicide or lenient sentences for mercy killings without first addressing inadequate community support resources.

He said governments must first work to provide services, support and supplies to help the ill, disabled and desperate.

Parole Right Choice, by Mindelle Jacobs in the Edmonton [Alberta] Sun:

Latimer’s murder conviction was obviously an anomaly but the case is unfortunately being used as a soapbox by fear mongers within the disability rights movement.

And while I don’t think Latimer should have killed Tracy, he is as far from a cold-blooded murderer as one can imagine.

… Do we really believe people convicted of mercy killings deserve the same punishment as some of our worst murderers?

The fact that Latimer is the only person ever jailed for such a crime suggests that Canadians favour legal flexibility in this area.

That could mean a separate category for compassionate homicide in the Criminal Code, as some countries have, or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for murder.

Sympathy is Misplaced, by Roy Clancy in the Edmonton [Alberta] Sun:

The real threat posed by this decision is that it might send a message to others charged with the care of those as vulnerable as Tracy Latimer.

… Once we legally endorse the right of one person to kill another because of their disabilities, we unleash a dangerous threat to the lives and well-being of the severely handicapped.

From the [Toronto] Globe and Mail:

Robert Latimer is expected to arrive in Ottawa, likely in the next few days, to challenge the legislators whose policies helped keep him in prison for seven years.

From the National Post: Latimer out to clear name

“He wants to have better access to the government,” said Ivan Bjornholt, Latimer’s friend and host of the Web site robertlatimer.ca. “That’s why he wants to go to Ottawa, so he’s not just writing letters to them that fall on deaf ears. He can actually maybe have a meeting with somebody.”

Latimer, 54, has always maintained that killing 12-year-old Tracy was an act of mercy. Since his incarceration, he has written judges and politicians numerous letters about his case, which are posted on Mr. Bjornholt’s Web site.

One Response to “Critics, supporters debate Latimer ‘mercy killing’ ruling”

  1. Larry Wanger Says:

    Thanks for gathering and sharing all of this information about the Latimer case. The disability community in the US needs to pay more attention to this.

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